Whitehall Woods, Hopkinton
SVT’s newest reservation is Whitehall Woods in Hopkinton, which we acquired in October 2016.
John Coolidge and Anne Richards were the caring stewards of a 42-acre woodland on Pond Street for over 40 years. As they neared retirement, they knew that the value of their land would be a key part of their retirement plan, and yet they didn’t want to see the land they loved covered with houses. Under Hopkinton’s Open Space and Landscape Preservation Development bylaw, they submitted a plan to the Planning Board in 2013 that clustered 12 houses on small lots on a cul-de-sac, leaving 32 acres as preserved open space.
Because the property sits in a key location between Whitehall State Park and the Upton State Forest, SVT and local conservation groups thought it was worth an effort to try to preserve all 42 acres of the property. Just next door, the state forest is home to a state-listed endangered species, and we felt that the Coolidge-Richards property, undeveloped, provided an important buffer to that habitat.
Unfortunately, and despite the fact that the property was the highest-ranking priority for preservation in the Town’s Open Space and Recreation Plan, neither the Planning Board nor the Community Preservation Committee supported the effort to preserve it in its entirety, and a vote to purchase it outright was unsuccessful at Town Meeting in 2015.
Despite this setback, SVT felt that the 32 acres that were to be set aside as open space for the development still made for a good piece of conservation land, and we agreed to take ownership of the land. The open space was transferred to SVT on October 18, and as required by the bylaw, a conservation restriction was granted to the Hopkinton Area Land Trust (HALT).
A trail system exists on the property, but improvements are needed. SVT and HALT will be working with volunteers and SVT’s AmeriCorps members to clear older trails and establish a better connection with the Upton State Forest. Trails will be officially open in June, 2017.